Aynsley Genga is a JURIST Staff Correspondent in Kenya.
It has been nearly two weeks since war erupted in Sudan, one of Kenya’s neighboring countries. As of Monday this week at least 460 people had been confirmed dead in Sudan while an estimated of 4063 people have been injured due to the ongoing clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Rapid Support Forces (RSF). Due to the ongoing war, many who are still in Sudan both locals as well as foreigners have been forced to live in fear and suffering due to the lack of adequate resources such as food, water, and medicine. Access to communications and electricity is limited in many parts of the country thus making it difficult for people to know what exactly is going on in Sudan as well as for families who have loved ones in Sudan to how their people are faring. Transport prices have also been hiked by transport providers thus making it extremely difficult for people to escape which has now forced many to look for alternative ways of escape which are not necessarily safe.
Since the war began, many Sudanese have fled to neighboring countries such as Egypt, Chad, Central African Republic and South Sudan. There have also been two ceasefires in which the two opposing forces have allowed people to evacuate. Just this week, on Monday, a 72-hour ceasefire was called and multiple countries have been seen trying to evacuate their people since many fear that war will worsen before any issue is resolved. We have had countries like Saudi Arabia that have managed to evacuate 2148 people as of Wednesday. Uganda has also been able to evacuate 211 people out of the 300 citizens it had confirmed are currently trapped in Sudan. Britain has also been able to evacuate 897 people. It is very pleasing for a citizen when you see your government is making an effort to ensure your safety and it also makes one proud of their nationality. However, not all states are like that and it brings me much pain to say that Kenya is one of those governments that appears not to really care about its citizens.
When the war began, it was confirmed that Kenya had an average of 3000 citizens trapped in Sudan. However, since then, the government has only managed to evacuate 98 of its citizens and yet the 72-hour ceasefire ends today. This basically means the rest of the Kenyan citizens will be trapped unless another ceasefire happens or they find alternative ways of fleeing. Honestly, it is times like these that one finds themselves wondering what exactly does our government have planned for us, especially when you see our government officials proudly stating that they have managed to save 98 people only. What about the 2902 citizens who are still trapped in Sudan? Are their lives less important? Are their families’ cries for them to be saved not loud enough? Sadly enough, the anger and shock do not end there. On Wednesday, news started spreading that 29 students who were part of the group that was rescued by the Kenya government, were not actually rescued by the government. Some of the students have come out and declared that they had to save themselves since the Kenyan Embassy in Sudan was not helpful at all. The students told a BBC reporter on Tuesday that they had to spend 300 dollars as well as bribe the Sudanese policemen that they met on their way while fleeing to Ethiopia. The students stated that it was in Ethiopia that they were finally assisted by the Kenyan Embassy. The students’ claims have further angered the relatives of those who are trapped in Sudan. Many of them are wondering what will happen to their loved ones and have even gone on the Twitter handle of Roseline Njogu, principal secretary for foreign and diaspora affairs, to seek clarification on the government’s rescue plan.
Other than Kenya, we also have Nigeria where there has been the fiasco with the evacuation of Nigerian students to Egypt where they ended up being stranded on the road with no food or water due to the bus drivers halting the journey due to their agents only receiving 30% of the payment for safely evacuating the students. Videos of the students stranded for nearly 5 hours have gone viral online. It was shocking since you honestly would never expect such a situation to occur in today’s modern society.
There have also been talks held by organizations such as UN discussing a permanent ceasefire in Sudan. Israel has even offered to host both leaders of the conflicting groups in order to come up with a suitable agreement that appeases both sides. There has also been the involvement of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an organization comprising of 8 East African states(Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda) with the aim of promoting cooperation, peace and development within the member states. IGAD has organized a summit to discuss a way of ensuring that there is a permanent ceasefire Sudan in order for talks of peace to happen in a conducive environment. But other than the talks there’s not much that is being done by them to ensure sustainable peace. Many online are saying that IGAD as well as African Union(AU) needs to step up since this is not the first time that a war has broken out in Africa hence by now the organizations should have already come up with ways to effectively control such situations. This mainly stems from the fact that many are worried that the war will escalate even further and lead to the death of countless of lives thus they are hoping the situation can be resolved sooner rather than later.
Another issue of concern that has arisen is regarding the current whereabouts of Omar al-Bashir, the former president of Sudan who was being held in prison for various crimes against humanity. During the course of the week it was discovered that the Sudanese prison (Kober Prison) Al-Bashir was being held in had been caught in the recent attacks and thousands of inmates were able to escape. Moreover, at least four senior officials in his government were also able to escape and they soon released a statement that they would turn themselves in once there is a proper judicial body operating in the country. This led to a lot of panic and concern in regards to the whereabouts of Omar al-Bashir himself. The Sudan army had to release a statement on Wednesday where they explained that they had already moved the man in question as well as 30 other inmates to Aliyaa hospital on the recommendation of medical staff at Kober Prison. The statement has led to a lot of questions being raised since there is no actual evidence of the man being in the said hospital. Al-Bashir could be anywhere, he could even be in Kenya and no one would ever know until it’s too late. Rumors have already began spreading even here in Kenya that he might be reinstated as the Sudanese president. People online, are speculating that this whole war might have been a ploy in order to get the man back into power. His supporters have even gone online to declare that he was the best president Sudan had while others are stating that the most assured way of organizing talks between the two conflicting groups is by letting him lead the talks.
In all honesty, the current situation in Sudan is not looking too good, and it also very disconcerting how difficult it is to actually get information on what is happening on the ground due to the lack of proper communication with the locals who are still trapped there. Furthermore, the fact that the war does not look like it is about to end any time soon is truly saddening. So many people have already been displaced and it has not even been a month. The number of Sudanese refugees fleeing their country is increasing daily. At this point it would not even be surprising if they start entering Kenya soon due to how dire the situation is. However, even if things may look bad right now there is still hope that things can get better for Sudan. It is just as the saying goes “Where hope is lost, it can be found again. Where love is forgotten, it can be remembered again.” It is therefore my hope that Sudan will rise again from this tragedy stronger and better and that this incident will not only serve as a lesson for Sudan but for other countries as well in order to prevent such tragedies from ever happening again.